jesus christ

Good Friday Reflection: The Suffering Servant


The Chosen One has died this day
But He, the Son, will rise Sunday
For that is what Amoz’ son did say
And we know that his word is true


Who has believed our message? (John 12: 38, Romans 10: 16)

And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,

And like a root out of parched ground;

He has no stately form or majesty

That we should look upon Him,

Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

He was despised and forsaken of men, (Luke 18: 31 – 33)

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

And like one from whom men hide their face

He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Mark 10: 33, 34 and John 1: 10, 11)

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, (Matthew 8: 17)

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted. (John 19: 7)

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, (Hebrews 9: 28)

He was crushed for our iniquities; (Romans 4: 25, 1 Cor 15: 3)

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, (Hebrews 5: 8)

And by His scourging we are healed. (1 Peter 2: 24, 25)

All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth; (Matt 26:63; 27:12–14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9)

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, (Acts 8:32, 33; Rev 5:6)

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death, (Matthew 27: 57 – 60)

Because He had done no violence, (1 Peter 2: 22)

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, (John 1: 29)

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied; (John 10: 14 – 18)

By His knowledge the Righteous One, (Romans 5: 18 – 19)

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, (Philippians 2: 9 – 11)

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death, (Matt 26: 38, 39, 42)

And was numbered with the transgressors; (Mark 15: 28, Luke 22: 37)

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, (2 Cor 5: 21)

And interceded for the transgressors.

Advertisements

Eternal Judgment: 1 – Judgment Is Needed For Justice

Gospel means good news. In order to understand how good the gospel of Jesus Christ is, one must understand how bad the bad news is. The bad news is very bad: God, at some point in the future, will put an end to the earth as we know it. He will bring all of humanity before Him, as defendants in a courtroom, and proclaim “guilty” or “not guilty” to each and every person. Those found guilty will be sent to everlasting torment, with no hope of parole. The first clear Biblical reference to this event, which is called the Eternal Judgment, is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel:

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

Before discussing how it is that God determines guilt or innocence, let us for a moment ponder the philosophical and logical implications of this event.

Adolf Hitler was a madman who killed millions of Jews for no good reason. He evaded justice by taking his own life prior to being captured. One must ask, “Did Hitler’s plan work?” Did Hitler escape justice by killing himself? If there is no Eternal Judgment, if there is no judgment after bodily death, then the answer is unequivocally yes, Hitler evaded justice. But if the human soul lives beyond the bodily death of this earth, and will stand before God one day, then no, Hitler did not escape justice. God will ensure that he is punished appropriately for his transgressions.

For a moment let us theorize that Hitler did not commit suicide, but was captured. Undoubtedly he would have been executed for his offenses, but perhaps leading up to his execution he would have been tortured. The question that must be asked is whether any amount of torture could truly repay Hitler for all the evil he committed. How much torture is needed to equal the deaths of six million Jews? How much torture is needed to account for the economic destruction, the lives lost during official combat, and the murdering of non-Jew invalids and the poor? Hitler would, even without killing himself, escape justice, because no human court could inflict a punishment that would ensure justice was served. It is not humanly possible to punish a man like Hitler, in proportion to all the evil and destruction he was responsible for.

The conclusion then is simple: without a judgment by God after death, there would be no such thing as objective justice. Justice would always be limited in scope (Hitler could never be adequately punished for his evils) and justice could be evaded (either through death or by hiding from human authorities). With an eternal judgment, justice is objective and no one will escape. God will ensure that all are brought to justice, with the righteous being rewarded and the wicked being punished.

Although intellectually we may nod our head at the notion of an eternal judgment being required for true justice, we at the same time may be fearful about such a judgment, wondering whether we will be found guilty. How is it that God determines guilt and innocence? The surprising teaching of the Bible is that God’s judgment is based not on one’s actual deeds, but on one’s faith in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – one can be a law-breaker and yet be acquitted and declared innocent. This scandalous idea will be the subject of the next discussion.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3


It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.


1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 3 – The Five Major Covenants Teach the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2


The Bible contains five major covenants, or promises, from God:

Name Details
Noahic Covenant God promised to never again destroy humanity by flood
Abrahamic Covenant God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham
Israelite Covenant God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed His law and to curse them if they didn’t
Davidic Covenant God promised to set one of David’s offspring (the Messiah) on the throne as king forever
New Covenant God promised to usher in the Messianic kingdom and write His law on peoples’ hearts (unlike the Israelite Covenant in which the law was written on stone)

Each of the five covenants has Messianic implications. To put it another way, each of the five main promises of God are best understood in relation to the Messiah and His kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which link the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant to the start of the New (Everlasting) Covenant:

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them…David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37: 24 – 26)

The link between the covenants and the Christ was noticed by far more than the prophet Ezekiel. The authors of the New Testament also commented on the five covenants and interpreted them in light of the Messiah:

Covenant New Testament Reference
Noahic For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3: 5 – 7)
Abrahamic Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 7 – 9)
Israelite Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 7: 11 – 12, 10: 1)

Davidic After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus…(Acts 13: 22 – 23)

New (Everlasting) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant (Hebrews 8: 7 – 9)

As we can see by these New Testament teachings, each of the covenants relate to Jesus the Messiah in their own particular way. Jesus will judge humanity with fire, akin to how God judged humanity with water in the days of Noah. The nations have been blessed through Abraham because it is the gospel of one of his descendants (Jesus) that has gone out to the world and brought unbelievers into the household of God. The Israelite Covenant demonstrated that humanity by its own power could never achieve righteousness through obedience, and it pointed to the need for a greater covenant in which God supplied everything necessary for salvation – this was fulfilled by Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus and the New Covenant were also the means by which God fulfilled His promise to David, to provide him an everlasting throne and kingdom.

Just as the New Testament is about Jesus, just as the Old Testament is about Jesus, so too are the five major covenants about Jesus. We should expect this, because it is consistent with what God wants us to know. God wants us to know and believe in Jesus Christ, and He has engineered the whole of Scripture, including His five main covenants, to testify to Jesus and our need for a Savior.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1 – The New Testament Explicitly References The Centrality of Christ

The Christian ought to believe that God’s oracles center around Christ because Jesus, the Christ, explicitly said that very thing. In an encounter with the Pharisees, recorded by the disciple John, Jesus dispelled the notion that the primary function of Scripture is to teach the law of God so that one could be righteous through holy living.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (John 5: 39, 46)

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made another explicit statement about the Christ-centered message of Scripture, during a conversation with His disciples.

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 44 – 47)

The author of Hebrews told us that God’s oracles climaxed with the coming of Christ.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1: 1 – 2)

Prior to Jesus, God spoke to Israel through a series of prophets, and the prophets looked ahead to the coming of the Christ. When Jesus came, the prophets ceased, for the Messiah had been revealed, and their message was no longer needed. All that was needed was for the words and deeds of the Messiah to be written down for posterity, and that has happened thanks to the authors of the New Testament.

Believing that Jesus is the main focus of the Bible is key to accurately reading and comprehending the Bible. One of the easiest things to do is to forget that the book is primarily about Jesus. When one does this, when one forgets, the book often becomes about the reader. The reader goes to Scripture to extract principles for living a better life, just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. This narcissistic reading can even happen when reading about Jesus – instead of focusing on the glory of Jesus and giving Him due praise, the reader instead studies the words and deeds of Christ, merely so they can try to mimic those qualities in their own life and become “a better person”.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gave us explicit references in Scripture, which prove the primacy of Christ, to help guard our hearts and minds as we approach God’s holy word. Since God desires His people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we must read Scripture, the revealed word of God, accurately. As we increase in our comprehension of the Biblical narrative, and as we increase in our comprehension of our own sinful nature, we will learn that it is impossible to please God through our living of His law. It is only because of what Christ has done on our behalf, by dealing with our sin, that we can be pleasing to God. The redemption of mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth is what the oracles of God all point to, in one way or another. The apostle Paul summarizes this great work well:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

To rightly understand the gospel of grace, and not turn it into a gospel of works, one must understand that Jesus stands in the center of all of God’s revealed truths.